SOUTHERN MARYLAND – Grab your earplugs because they are coming.

After 17 long years, the Brood X cicadas will emerge from the ground and swarm by the millions throughout the majority of the Maryland region. The Brood X (10) is a specific population of cicadas that live in the Mid-Atlantic region and only surface every 17 years. This population last emerged in the late spring of 2004 and is now ready to return.  

Dr. Jeff Lombardo, a biology professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland who focuses on forest ecology and entomology, explains how they will emerge sometime in late-Spring.

“We can expect to be inundated with the notoriously noisy cicadas beginning about mid-May and lasting through June,” Lombardo said. “While they can be a nuisance, they aren’t really harmful to us.”

Cicadas are often known for shedding their exoskeleton shells, which can pile up on the ground. Cicadas are not dangerous, they will not bite you and are safe if your pet eats them.

Their mating calls can reach up to 100 decibels, and you can try to call one by snapping your fingers.  Snapping imitates the sound of female cicadas, which might attract a male.

The Brood X cicadas are herbivores, meaning they only feed on plants.  Experts suggest that if you have recently planted a tree to place netting around it for protection while the cicadas are here.  

However, one of the most frequently asked questions with the Brood X population seemed to be, “why is it every 17 years?”

“Their periodic emergence is an evolutionary strategy that maximizes their potential for reproduction (the adults emerge synchronously), while also limiting predation by overwhelming the birds and other predators with so many cicadas,” Lombardo explains. “[Predators] can hardly make a dent.”

This means that even though they are relatively defenseless, there are too many of them for predators to cause concern for the species- they use their numbers as a weapon.  

Lombardo added, “But exactly why it is fixed to a 17-year cycle is still a bit of a mystery.” Whatever the reason for this particular cycle, we know that we can expect to hear the hum of millions of cicadas by the end of May.

After they complete their mating process and die off, the eggs laid will hatch and dig back into the ground for another 17 years, until 2038. 

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